Nashville to Host Historic African Methodist Episcopal Church General Conference The First Time in Nashville since 1872
The African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest Black religious denomination in America will hold the 49th Session of the General Conference June 27-July 4, 2012 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, TN, home of the world famous Fisk University Jubilee Singers.
Nashville is part of the 13th Episcopal District, which comprises the states of Tennessee and Kentucky. The last time the 13th District hosted the General Conference was in 1996 in Louisville, KY., and this year is the first time the conference has been held in Nashville since the late 1800s.
The mission of the AME Church is to minister to the spiritual, intellectual, physical, emotional and environmental needs of all people by spreading Christ’s liberating gospel through word and deed.
Every four years the AME Church assembles for the General Conference when delegates and leaders from around the world are charged with the responsibility to discuss, debate and pass significant legislation that will impact the mission and ministry of this great Zion.
Bishop Gregory G.M. Ingram, Commission Chairperson of the General Conference said “The General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is actively preparing what we hope will not only be the boldest proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ embedded in the theme ‘Exalting Christ to Impact the World’ but we will engage in serious dialogue on quadrennial goals the Church will establish for the next four years.”
He added, “We are meeting at a critical time in history. The church must not sit quietly by with the world facing acute social and economic problems. We are intensely concerned with those cries and crisis that bring misery and need to God’s children. Hunger, persecution, child and sexual abuse, exploitation, injustice, family dysfunctions, and unemployment, are all ills that our people are struggling with. As a church, our hearts must be stirred in such a way that it is our hope, desire and passion to find jobs for the jobless, to carry hope to the hopeless, to assure relief to the oppressed, and to be a voice crying in the wilderness saying, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord.’
It is our hope that this General Conference, as we meet in Nashville, will not be just another meeting, but will establish a new paradigm to effectuate meaningful change.”
The AME Church convenes on a quadrennial basis for the purpose of conducting the church’s legislative business and financial reporting. According to Bishop John R. Bryant, Senior Bishop, “Every AME member is always excited over the prospect of the experience of another General Conference. This ensuing conference leadership combination of Bishop Gregory G.M. Ingram as Chair of the Commission and Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie as host Bishop has us ALL in high anticipation of the great things we will see, hear and do.” Bishop Bryant served as the host Bishop of the General Conference in St. Louis in 2008.
“Team 13 is excited to host this historic quadrennial session.” Team 13 is the name of the host committee in the 13th District, said Bishop Vashti McKenzie. “From its roots in the Free African Society to the present age, the AME Church has played a vital part in articulating social justice issues, from the eradication of poverty and slavery to 21st century issues such as health care reform, a great recession, struggling economy, injustice, public education and moral decay. This articulation goes beyond public pronouncement but takes shape in the form of ministry beyond the walls of the sanctuary into the global community. When our global community gathers in Music City USA, we will worship, work and then leave to witness in our various communities.”
The conference will bring approximately 30,000 attendees to the Nashville area, including church officials, program participants, exhibitors, sponsors, observers, families and friends. Additionally, dignitaries and state and local officials will make appearances at the conference.
Dr. Richard Lewis, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer of the Church explained “The economic impact of this conference to Nashville is quite significant. “There will be hundreds of people employed for this event and the spending is projected to be nearly $50 million, inclusive of goods and services, hotel, food, travel and leisure and retail purchases.”
On Tuesday, June 26, there will be two pre-conference events: the Platinum Golf Tournament, held at 7 a.m. at Opryland Links Golf Course, and Bishop McKenzie’s formal opening event, the Believe Banquet. The banquet will feature the internationally renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers. Nashville’s popular nickname “Music City USA,’ originally comes from Queen Victoria recognizing the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ hometown as ‘Music City.’ This stellar event takes place at 7 p.m. in the Delta Ballroom of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.
The conference officially begins on Wednesday, June 27 with the Opening Worship Service at 10 a.m. This religious ceremony, which is open to the public, is steeped in tradition and features the AME Conference Choir, conducted by Maestro Samuel Robinson of Nashville and the sermon delivered by Bishop McKinley Young of Jacksonville, Florida.
The Connectional Lay Organization will hold its special 100th anniversary celebration on Sunday, July 1, at 7 a.m. Dr. Bobby Jones, Tennessee native and host of BET’s Bobby Jones Gospel Show, will serve as the worship leader. The organization’s mission is to teach and train the laity to support the total program in the church, community and the connection through a systematic and regular study of the Doctrine and Discipline of the AME Church, and to keep alive the memory of the Church’s founder, Richard Allen.
Camp AME is an important feature of the conference for young people between the ages of 4-17 attending with their families. It offers special services for two age groups: Youth Camp and Teen Camp. Camp AME provides a wide range of activities in a safe, fun-filled spiritual setting. There will be field trips to various Nashville educational and entertainment venues, as well as special programs and presentations.
In addition to these events and other activities, the AME Mall will be a special feature during the conference. Exhibitors ranging from career counselors to vendors of hand-made artifacts will be on site. There will be rows and rows of learning materials, faith-based books and unique items from throughout the world. The exhibit hall will open with great fanfare and high energy with dignitaries from both the community and the Church.
An official ribbon cutting will take place, Thursday, June 28, at 1 p.m. to ceremoniously open the AME Mall.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church has a membership of more than three million people worldwide with an even broader range of influence. There are approximately 7,500 churches throughout North and South America as well as Europe, Africa and India. The Church has established and supports 12 higher education institutions, helping those with diverse backgrounds to obtain formal educational opportunities. The Church was founded in 1787 in Philadelphia, PA, and in 1816, the AME Church became an official religious denomination.